Today’s the day! Hampton Court Palace celebrates its 500th birthday
It’s not every day you turn 500, especially if you’re Hampton Court, a Tudor palace that’s survived half a millennium of building, rebuilding, restoration, redecoration and conservation. The palace, the centre of court life for over 200 years, has been a witness to the honeymoons of Henry VIII, Mary I and Charles II, and the birth and baptism of Henry VIII’s much longed for heir. It has been the setting for confrontations and private meetings between Mary I and Elizabeth I; Elizabeth and her many suitors; Charles I and Cromwell. It is the place where Jane Seymour died, where Charles I was imprisoned, and where William III suffered a fatal accident. Shakespeare performed in the Great Hall; Handel played in the Chapel Royal, and Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat got lost in the famous maze.
Now, to mark this important milestone in the story of one of Britain’s most remarkable buildings, Historic Royal Palaces has commissioned a show-stopping edible extravaganza fit for a king (or queen!) from cake maestros Choccywoccydoodah.
At over three feet high, and rendered in white chocolate, the palace’s birthday cake showcases 500 years of Hampton Court’s history in striking detail – from the Tudor design of the King’s Beasts found in the Chapel Court Garden to a William Kent scheme bed niche currently framing Gentileschi’s Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife in the Cumberland Art Gallery. Each tier takes inspiration from a different century in the palace’s history, with the story of the planting of the Great Vine and Hampton Court’s subsequent division into grace and favour apartments all being translated into edible artwork. The top tier of the cake, surmounted by glittering gold stars, pays homage to the palace’s central role as a location for the London 2012 Olympic Games, where cyclist Bradley Wiggins won gold for Team GB.
Christine Taylor, Creative Director of Choccywoccydoodah, said:
‘Choccywoccydoodah are very proud to be making this magnificent cake to mark Hampton Court Palace’s 500th birthday. If history were turned on its head, I hope Henry VIII would be delighted with this cake, particularly as his glittering style has provided so much inspiration, 500 years on. A cake homage to an important part of British history, spanning half a millennium; who wouldn’t be proud?’
Marc Meltonville, Historic Royal Palaces’ resident food historian, said:
‘This cake continues a long tradition of culinary spectacle at Hampton Court. 500 years ago the court would have been dazzled by the lavish dishes produced by Wolsey’s kitchens, and five centuries later Choccywoccydoodah’s outrageous creation would surely rival anything created in splendour and magnificence.’
The cake marks the start of an entire year of celebration at Hampton Court Palace, with a series of exciting events, displays and entertainments taking place which explore the vast sweep of five centuries of history: from the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII, to the small army of curators, conservators and gardeners who keep the palace ticking over today.
• From this month, Historic Royal Palaces is recruiting 3,000 young people and families to contribute to a very special new animated film, retelling 500 years of history in 5 minutes. A year of movie-making activities and workshops at the palace will culminate in the creation of a film by Aardman Animations, which will premiere at the palace in October.
• From Easter, the famous wine fountain will flow once more, offering up a toast to 500 years of Hampton Court every afternoon. Visitors will be able to get up close and personal with a cast of characters from across the palace’s history, as costumed actors playing kings, queens and courtiers bring Hampton Court’s history to life. On any given day, visitors might witness Catherine Howard’s attempted flight towards Henry VIII to save herself, stumble upon Charles I and Oliver Cromwell deep in conversation, or see Elizabeth I’s giant porter brought to life in the Tudor rooms he once guarded, where his portrait now hangs.
• Over the Easter weekend a state of the art 3D film projection onto the Palace’s south façade, will take a kaleidoscopic journey through the building’s history, re-modelling and life of the palace in four ‘movements’. The Palace will be dressed for a celebration, with carriages from different eras parked outside the famous Tudor gatehouse.
• For May Bank Holiday Weekend, a ‘TimeQuake’ quest will be held for families, inviting visitors to travel back in time and meet some of the key characters who have shaped the Hampton Court’s history. Specially written for the anniversary year by best-selling author Damien Dibben, an exciting reward will await those who complete the journey!
• The summer will see two large garden parties staged, celebrating a ‘palace of two halves’ and giving visitors the opportunity to explore great moments from Hampton Court’s past. Bringing the Tudor Palace to life, King Henry VIII will put on a show to impress the ambassadors, with sporting prowess on display in a magnificent Tudor joust, dancing in the Elizabethan knot garden, and the Tudor Kitchens cooking up a storm. Meanwhile, in a special Baroque themed weekend, Charles II, his new Queen and a selection of ravishing court beauties will celebrate a masque in the formal gardens.
It promises to be an action-packed, exciting year – after all, you only turn 500 once!
Notes for editors
For more information and images, please contact Adam Budhram in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0203 166 6307
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information, visit www.hrp.org.uk
Registered charity number 1068852